Posted August 13, 2014
Everyone was at least on the right track with this one! A small skull with sharp teeth could lead one to say it was a bat or mole, however this is a Long-tailed Weasel (Mustela frenata). Those who attended the Skull Identification Workshop at Wahkeena last Saturday would recognize that this is the skull of a true carnivore, a member of the mammal Order Carnivora. Bats have more insectivorous type teeth and are in Order Chiroptera, while moles have a row of sharp cheekteeth for eating worms, other small invertebrates, and nuts. Moles are placed in the Order Soricomorpha along with the shrews. Also the size of the skull is a determining factor; this skull is about two inches long, while the bat, mole, or shrew skull would be smaller. The short rostrum and the flattened, elongated skull are also distinctive for a weasel. Good job Tessa, Mindy, David and Dale for recognizing this one!
There are five members of the weasel family (Mustelidae) in Ohio, and the Long-tailed Weasel is the most common. Like the Short-tailed and Least Weasel, the Long-tailed may molt to a pure white pelage in the winter but this is not real common in Ohio. The white coat is more prevalent in the northern parts of its range. However the Long-tailed and Short-tailed will retain the distinctive black tip on the end of the tail in summer and winter. The secretive members of the weasel family are important species in helping to control the populations of rats and mice.